Joy Stories

Why Climb Everest

George Mallory was the famed mountain climber who may have been the first person ever to reach the top of Mount Everest. In the early 1920’s he led a number of attempts to scale the mountain, eventually being killed in the third attempt in 1924. His body was found in 1999, well preserved by the snow and ice, 27,000 feet up the mountain, just 2000 feet from the peak. Give up he did not. His body was found face down on a rocky slope, head toward the summit. His arms were extended high over his head. His toes were pointed into the mountain; his fingers dug into the loose rock, refusing to let go even as he drew his last breath. A short length of cotton rope – broken – was looped around his waist.

In 1992, when Mallory was asked why climb Everest this is the reply he gave:

“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Source: Biographical information from Seattle Times January 16, 2000. Quote from from

Tony Bullimore

In January 1997 British yachtsman Tony Bullimore was sailing solo deep in the Southern Ocean. A gale was raging. The waves, reaching the height of a five story building, rushed on him with a sound like roaring thunder. As his yacht plummeted down the face of a wave it hit something submerged in the water and turned upside down.

Tony, who had been sheltering in the two metre by three metre cockpit found it had become his prison. As giant waves buffeted the boat, water poured in and out a broken window, knee high at one end, waist high at the other, the air temperature was down to 2 degrees Celsius, and it was pitch black – the sun couldn’t penetrate the upturned yacht.

Twelve times Bullimore left the cockpit in a vain attempt to release his liferaft. Meeting with no success he took refuge in his little cabin. Sitting inside the cold inky darkness Bullimore had few rations – some chocolate and  a device for making fresh water from salty sea. His fingers became frostbitten and Bullimore thought that he was going to die. The odds of being rescued seemed impossibly small.

Four four long days Tony survived, until late Wednesday night when a RAFF plane located him and dropped an electronic probe next to his yacht. Bullimore could hear the faint pings, and with hope rising in his heart, started tapping on the hull to communicate to whoever was listening that he was alive. Early the next morning the HMAS Adelaide drew alongside, and some sailors were dispatched to bang on the hull. Tony heard the banging, took a deep breath, and swam out through the wreckage of his yacht to meet them.

How did he feel at that moment? Bullimore says “When I looked over at the Adelaide, I could only get the tremendous ecstasy that I was looking at life, I was actually looking at a picture of what life was about. It was heaven, absolute heaven. I really, really never thought I would reach that far. I was starting to look back over my life and was starting to think, `Well, I’ve had a good life, I’ve done most of the things I had wanted to do’ I think if I was picking words to describe it, it would be a miracle. An absolute miracle.”

Reflecting on the experience later Bullimore told reporters “…Now that I’m getting a bit old there is one thing, and I don’t mind telling the world, I’ve become more human. In these last six days I’m a different person. I won’t be so rude to people, not that I was, but I’ll be much more of a gentleman and, equally, I’ll listen to people a lot more. And as a dear old friend of mine, David Matherson, said when he had a heart attack – and I’ve never had a heart attack, I’ve got a strong heart, I hope I still have – he said that when he got over it and opened his window in his bedroom and he peered out and smelt the fresh air and all the rest of it, he said: `God it was like being born all over again, life was great!’ Well that’s how I feel now, like being born all over again.”

Tony Bullimore learned the power of hope. It was hope of being rescued that drove him to survive and it was the fulfilment of hope that brought him such joy and a new perspective on life. In the same way the gospel promises hope to all of us, and particularly to those of us who find life tough going. A time will come when the Rescuer will arrive and release the world from the pain and suffering. And it’s that hope that drives us forward.

Bullimore reflects a common outlook among those who’ve had a brush with death. In almost religious language he says it’s like being born all over again, a fresh start at life, and one he will make a better fist of. The death and resurrection of Jesus likewise brings us a fresh appreciation of life, a fresh start and a new way of living.

Source: Scott Higgins. Bullimore quotes taken from The Sunday Age January 1997.

A Father’s Letter

Paul Brand is a brilliant medical doctor who did pioneering work in the treatment of leprosy. He has received the Albert Lasker Award, been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen, served as the only Westerner on the Mahatma Ghandi foundation, and had medical procedures named after him.

Brand grew up in India, where his parents were missionaries. At the age of nine he was sent to boarding school in England. Five years later, while a 14 year old student there, he received a telegram informing him that his beloved father had died of blackwater fever. Brand cherished fond memories of his father, a man who had a great love for people and a great love for the natural world around him.

A short time after he received news of his father’s death Paul Brand received a letter from his father. It had been posted prior to his father’s death but took some time to reach Brand as it came by ship. It’s words impacted deeply upon the young son. Paul’s father described the hills around their home and then finished with these words: “God means us to delight in his world. It isn’t necessary to know botany or zoology or biology in order to enjoy the manifold life of nature. Just observe. And remember. And compare. And be always looking to God with thankfulness and worship for having placed you in such a delightful corner of the universe as the planet Earth.”


Source: Reported in Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor (Hodder & Stoughton, 2001).